The smitten rock that gushes,
The trampled steel that springs:
A cheek is always redder
Just where the hectic stings!
Mirth is mail of anguish,
In which its cautious arm
Lest anybody spy the blood
And, "you're hurt" exclaim
I say it's odd because I'm not crazy about the middle stanza and can't help but flinch when the poem's final rhythm hinges on the rhyming of "cautious arm" with "hurt exclaim." But I like "mirth is a mail of anguish" very much.
Here's her deeper poem on the hiding and knowing of pain and its consolations.
I measure every grief I meet
With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
Or has an easier size.
I wonder if they bore it long,
Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
It feels so old a pain.
I wonder if it hurts to live,
And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
They would not rather die.
I wonder if when years have piled--
Some thousands--on the cause
Of early hurt, if such a lapse
Could give them any pause;
Or would they go on aching still
Through centuries above,
Enlightened to a larger pain
By contrast with the love.
The grieved are many, I am told;
The reason deeper lies,--
Death is but one and comes but once
And only nails the eyes.
There's grief of want, and grief of cold,--
A sort they call 'despair,'
There's banishment from native eyes,
In sight of native air.
And though I may not guess the kind
Correctly yet to me
A piercing comfort it affords
In passing Calvary,
To note the fashions of the cross
Of those that stand alone
Still fascinated to presume
That some are like my own.
One of the million things I cherish about this poem is the "piercing comfort it affords" to try to know and bear, for a moment, in contemplation, the burdens of others, and to thereby be less alone, suffering, and less absorbed by one's own suffering. "There's grief of want and grief of cold" and "a sort they call despair," and there's being separate from what your heart knows as home, right there in front of you but no longer yours -- "banishment from native eyes in sight of native air."
I love too that those "that stand alone" though they yet stand alone, are not singular, but are many, and therefor are not alone. The crackle of being alone in such good company is why this poem starts little brushfires on the red, Martian deserts of the heart.
To read more interviews between the voices in my head in the museum of my muse, see here.
To look at my books, see these.
To see a Radio Freethinker write-up of that LA conference on Secular Humanism I took part in a few weeks ago, see there.
I had a great time at the New School reading last night, thanks to everyone who showed up. It was really great to see so many friends. Thanks to David Lehman for the invitation and the great job moderating.
Well friends, bleaders, poets, and other travelers in the realms of gold, you know what I am going to say. Which is bear up! Courage. I speak especially to those standing alone in impossible inner situations, feeling the cool autumn air press down from outer space and trying not to name the chill too often, or too well. The advice is small and simple. Don't fall in the well. It is not your fault and you are doing fine. Rake a leaf a day and call it lucky.
Don't kill yourself and I shall return to encourage you again.
ps. Here's me against tonight's pink sky, taken by John, just for you.